HomeTactical & SurvivalThey’re Baaaack! Minimalist, 5-Toe ‘Peluva’ Lightweight Trainer Review

They’re Baaaack! Minimalist, 5-Toe ‘Peluva’ Lightweight Trainer Review

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“What are those?!” Just when you thought the meme — and the toe-shoe craze — was dead, here I come, waltzing in like it’s 2010 all over again.

In full transparency, I didn’t understand the appeal when Vibram made its sneaker splash with the Five Fingers footwear phenomenon. At the time, Born to Run was a bestselling hit that had runners and non-runners alike embracing the minimalist movement.

But the trend faltered as folks ran into injuries or simply lost their enthusiasm for shoes that brought them closer to the ground beneath their feet. Minimalist shoes faded in popularity, and max cushion swept in to take its place. It’s a wave the outdoor industry has been riding for the better part of 10 years.

With this arc, I had thought the toe-shoe design quietly died when minimal footwear lost its prominence. But recently, a young brand, Peluva, reached out to offer a test pair with a similar, if softer-looking design. Curious about what I missed the first time around, I agreed.

Where Five Fingers touted utility and rugged performance benefits, Peluva says it’s simply “changing the way the world walks.” After 2 months of daily wear, I’ve become a convert (if not an evangelist). Here’s why I think this new-look toe shoe has a shot to go beyond fad.

In short: You have to crawl before you walk, and the toe shoe revolution — if there is to be one — needs an easier approach than it started with. Peluva’s Lightweight Trainer has become my favorite light-duty daily shoe because it leaves my feet feeling less fatigued, crowded, and overworked at the end of the day. It’s not my preferred shoe for hard miles or peak performance, but for everything in between, it’s a stellar change of pace.

  • Weight
    7.5 oz. (size 13 tested) / 7.2 oz. (size 10.5 claimed)
  • Stack
    9mm
  • Drop
    0mm

  • Sleek, around-town design

  • Secure fit

  • All-day comfort

  • Lightweight


  • Learning curve to put on

  • Must use toe socks or wear barefoot

  • Laces too long

  • Not ideal for long runs

Peluva Toe Shoe: What Is It?

Let’s start with the caveat that these shoes are not another incarnation of Five Fingers running shoes. That line has long billed itself as performance footwear that can tackle multiple terrains and distances.

Peluva isn’t that … yet. The small brand has just five models, each in a men’s and women’s style, and the Lightweight Trainer I tested is the most performance-oriented of all. Still, this shoe is soft, pliant, and more casual than it is competitive. If you’re looking for a minimalist, long-mile shoe, look elsewhere.

However, as a daily shoe to tackle everything but your biggest objectives, the Peluva potentially has a place on anyone’s shoe rack. In addition to evenings out and days at the office, the Lightweight Trainer works as a solid gym and general fitness shoes (just don’t drop the dumbbells). It’s capable enough for light activity, but not serious agility.

Peluva Lightweight Trainer Review

Fit

When I first received the pitch to try these shoes, I assumed I would not be able to test them. I have Morton’s toe (second toe extends longer than my big toe), and toe shoes historically don’t accommodate “aberrant” foot shapes well. When I mentioned this to the brand, I was assured that with the proper size Peluva, I should be fine.

Peluva offers some guidance on its website to help folks who don’t have the typical foot shape. In some cases, you may want to go a half-size up for longer second toes or pinky toes. I went true to size (13) and have had no issues.

Material & Specs

The Lightweight Trainer’s upper is pleasantly soft and stretchy to the touch. This owes to the poly-blend Lycra construction. It has an industry-standard EVA midsole and rubber outsole.

As the name promises, the shoes are indeed lightweight — just 7.6 ounces (per shoe) for my size 13s. This makes them equally comfortable away from home and lounging around within it.

The Trainers have no drop and only enough cushion to gently smooth out underfoot aggressors like rocks and debris. When I asked Peluva, the brand told me it added 5mm of midsole component — what I consider moderate minimalist. You will still feel closer to the ground, but not every contour of it.

Honest Impressions

I’ve had time to practice this review because, in every place I wear shoes, someone inevitably asks what I think of them. Toe shoes equal conversation starters.

As I’ve told everyone else, I am pleasantly surprised with Peluva. I initially thought the toe-shoe design was a gimmick. But after 2 months of wearing these, I definitely notice a difference in both the comfort inside the shoes and out.

What I mean is that the shoes are undeniably comfy to wear — the outer is soft, breathable, flexible, and supportive enough not to be sloppy. On top of that, there’s enough cushion underfoot that I survived 2 days walking around a concrete trade show floor without experiencing agony or tightness in my calves.

But I have also noticed an overall decrease in foot fatigue when it comes time to kick the Peluvas off. The feeling is undeniable, although I’m not certain exactly why. It could be that after a day in most running shoes, feet swell and toes crowd. Even when it’s not egregious, pressure can build inside standard shoes, and it’s because of this that you feel such relief when you finally take them off.

I don’t experience that same degree of relief with the Peluva Lightweight Trainers. The shoes do provide a measure of foot freedom that my other shoes do not.

Good Almost Everywhere

While these shoes have proven awesome for daily wear, running errands, casual walks, and even gym use, I don’t think I’ll bring them camping or hiking. For all the comfort the upper provides, it doesn’t feel like it could withstand the hazards of more serious outdoor use.

And that includes water — Peluva advertises the Lightweight Trainers as machine washable and dryable, so they won’t fall apart when wet, but they’re not designed to protect your feet when the going gets damp.

Another note to consider about when, where, and how to wear these shoes is socks. I completely overlooked the fact that toe shoes require toe socks — or no socks at all! If you are a devout sock-wearer (as I have been), you’ll need to invest in toe socks. Peluva sells these, or you can shop around for brands like Injinji.

I will admit that because I did not own any toe socks and only received one pair with these shoes, I have dabbled in barefooting it inside the Peluvas. I avoid going barefoot in shoes because it can quickly promote odor, but I’m happy to report that this has not been the case with these shoes. They work well without socks, although I still prefer socks, as they prevent sweat and reduce the risk of any hot spots.

Drawbacks

Though my experience has been positive, there are some minor issues my testing uncovered. First off, putting the shoes on and off takes a few tries to master.

Odds are that on your first try, you’ll inadvertently smush two toes into the same compartment and have to adjust a bit until you get it. I stumbled across a side-to-side shimmy that settles each toe into place when I slide the shoe on.

Next, the laces. If there is any whiff on the design, it’s the selection to include laces that feel exceptionally long for the shoe. There are only four pairs of eyelets on each shoe, which by most measures would work with 27-inch laces. The laces on the Lightweight Trainer, however, are a whopping 47 inches long!

This leaves a lot of lace left over when you tie your shoes — enough that you may accidentally step on them. Of course, you can buy your own laces to resolve this.

The final pain point I experienced was an actual hot spot — midfoot along the outside of my left foot. This comes with a caveat, though: I ambitiously took on a 5-mile run without socks, far and away the most aggressive test I put these through.

It reinforces that these are not designed to replace your regular and higher-performance running shoes. For more modest trots and while wearing socks, I experienced no such issues while testing.

Peluva Toe Shoes: Should You Buy?

I still don’t believe I missed out on the initial Five Finger craze. That was a literal first step in the world of minimalist toe shoes. I’m still not ready to switch over to toe shoes for race days or seriously rugged runs.

But as my daily footwear, I’m an avowed convert. The Peluva Lightweight Trainer has ascended to the tippy top of my shoe shelf for most days and casual pursuits. It’s noticeably more comfortable to wear and leaves my feet feeling better when it comes time to take them off.



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